Yves Tourigny is a Canadian board game designer with two recent releases, Expedition: Northwest Passage and Blueprints, to his credit. With these and many more games in the works, we here at Mighty Meep think that Yves is a designer to keep an eye on in the coming years. He was kind enough to answer a few questions via email about his gaming life.
Joe Aguayo: Let’s start at the beginning. How did you first find your way into the board gaming hobby? What were some of your early favorites?
Yves Tourigny: I’ve been involved with the board game hobby in one form or another nearly all my life. I played games as a child with my brother, my cousins, and with the other kids in afterschool care. We played Pop-o-Matic Trouble, card games, mancala, checkers, chess, Connect Four. My mother must have entered a contest at some point, because we won a set of five Ravensburger games, which included Grand Safari, Sagaland, Scotland Yard, and Master Labyrinth. These were my introduction to eurogames. Other highlights of this early gaming period included Fireball Island and HeroQuest. I was also fond of the Fighting Fantasy series of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books (in French).
In high school I migrated to roleplaying games, and was involved with collectible card games (CCGs). I played and collected Magic: The Gathering for the first few years of its existence. I also played Jyhad. My favorite CCG was Mythos, the Lovecraft themed game from Chaosium. I was also introduced to the French game of tarot and other trick taking games, and also to games such as Diplomacy, and Axis & Allies. Some friends and acquaintances from this period would organize game days or evenings and I would periodically get an invitation. Those people are still involved in the local board game scene.
After high school I joined the Ottawa University game club, where I was introduced to many games from Steve Jackson Games (Illuminati, Hackers, Frag), Avalon Hill (Kremlin, Merchant of Venus) and Games Workshop (Talisman, Fury of Dracula). My favorite game from this period, and what started me in game design, was the original Chaosium edition of Arkham Horror. I was introduced by a friend, and managed to obtain a copy from eBay. This was in the late 90s, and the game had been out of print for a decade.
I entered the current period of my gaming life about 10 years ago. I was introduced to modern eurogames: Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, and others. Things snowballed from there and I haven’t really looked back.
JA: What are some of your current favorites? What particular elements draw you to a game now?
YT: Mondo, by Michael Schacht, is a game that exemplifies a lot of things that I like in a game:
- I like building things, especially building things with tiles.
- I like puzzles, especially visual puzzles and optimization puzzles (time constraints are a bonus).
- I like direct competition, where the players race to use the same things, but not direct conflict.
- I like shorter games, which give a full game experience in a limited amount of time.
- I like games with short turns or simultaneous play, where all the players remain engaged for the duration of the game.
Jaipur is another game that I really enjoy, and which has qualities that Mondo does not have.
- I like collecting things, making sets, and having to decide whether the collection is big enough, or whether I should keep adding to it.
- I like taking advantage of tactical opportunities, and having to choose between doing so or passing them up.
- I like simple rules that create interesting decisions.
- I like themes just deep enough to make sense of the rules, but not so deep that I feel that rules were added because the theme requires them.
- I like sturdy components and beautiful illustrations.
Different groups require different games, and my favorites will also vary with my mood, but some perennial favorites include: Glory to Rome, Roll’n Bump, Troyes, Ticket to Ride, Haggis, Rattus, Finca, Thurn and Taxis, and Pick-a-Pig.
JA: Talk about how you first became interested in designing board games?
YT: A friend was interested in creating expansions for games. He created a large number of cards for Talisman (including some Doctor Who), and custom characters for Arkham Horror. He also made a version of Arkham Horror set in Sesqua Valley, based on the Lovecraftian stories of W.H. Pugmire. I did a similar work, creating a complete Dunwich Horror version of Arkham Horror, roughly five years before Fantasy Flight did the same. We also made a large number of cards for the Mythos CCG. This was 10-15 years ago.
JA: What was your first attempt at board game design? How do you feel about that design today?
YT: After working on cards and expansions for Mythos and Arkham Horror, I tried my hand at original games. This predated my reintroduction to eurogames, so I’m very embarrassed by those designs. They were silly, which is okay, but also boring, which is not. Playtesting wasn’t really a consideration. Making games was a creative outlet: they gave me a reason to draw, write and craft game components. Games from that period include: Snake Oil, Hobokonig, Zom-bees, Auberge des Vampires (Vampire Inn), Drunkard’s Walk, Furry Will, and Gruuk. I’ll let you guess what they were about. Very few of them got played, and only one or two were played more than once. I gave up on all of them, and stopped designing games for several years.
JA: You’ve recently had two games released from pretty big publishers: Northwest Passage by Matagot/Asmodee and Blueprints by Zman (Congratulations!). Can you tell us about what the inspiration was for each of these games?
YT: Northwest Passage was my first new design after my reintroduction to modern games. The inspiration was quite simply a corner punch. I was playing games with friends when one of them took out a corner punch, which he was using on a print-and-play 18xx game. At the same session another friend asked if we would mind playtesting a game he was working on. I became obsessed with the punch, and decided to get one. To justify that decision, I decided to design a game with tiles with rounded corners. The theme of Arctic exploration was on my mind, so it seemed like a natural fit. I knew that being stuck in the ice was adanger that I wanted to include, so I introduced the solar disc idea, frequently cited as the most innovative element in the game.
The difference between this design and previous ones was my introduction to the Game Artisans of Canada, and to designers in the local chapter in Ottawa. We started meeting regularly to playtest games, and put into practice an evidence-based design philosophy.
Blueprints was started almost two years after Northwest Passage. The game idea was developed during a long car ride with fellow designer Al Leduc. Many of Al’s games involved dice drafting and dice pools, so we riffed on those ideas for a while. I suggested using the dice as objects rather than signifiers (a symbol pointing to some value or resource, so that when you draft a red “2”, you are actually taking 2 of some resource, or an action worth 2, etc.). I wanted to take the die, and place IT someplace. Using them as blocks in a building was the natural solution, and so we discussed various ways that colour and value could be used. The game was prototyped within a week, and the game has not changed significantly from the version first playtested. Values have been tweaked, but the published version has the exact same Awards, Prizes (barring one, that was omitted), and Blueprints cards as the first version.
JA: Aside from being fun and solid games in their own right, I was struck by how different they are from one another mechanically and thematically. Is this something that you’re deliberate about from the outset of a game design?
YT: Top This!, which is (finally) coming in March from Ottawa publisher Uniforge, is a dexterity pizza-topping game that is also very different. I try to design games that I’m interested in playing, and I’m interested in a wide variety of games. Don’t look for a heavy economic game from me. Northwest Passage is probably as heavy a game as I’m comfortable designing. Shorter games are also easier to playtest and develop, so I’m trending towards shorter these days. As for theme, I try to look for themes that interest me and that haven’t been used too much. I’m also interested in developing themes that are uniquely Canadian, but this might be a hindrance more than a boon.
JA: Have you found that publishers are more willing to look at your designs now?
YT: I’m not sure. Gaetan Beaujannot, from Forgenext, is my agent. All my games go through him right now, because communicating with publishers is not something that I want to devote too much time to. It takes away from the time I can design and test games, which is already in short demand since I also have a full-time job. I definitely know more people who are publishers than I used to, and those people might be more willing to look at my designs. I’m very active on Facebook, frequently posting illustrations from games in progress, and this has led to some conversations with publishers about the games, but nothing concrete has materialized as a result of having two published games.
JA: Do you have any games in the works that you can talk about?
YT: I have a great number of games in various stages of completion. My agents have a half-dozen right now, and there is another dozen that I’m actively working on. Several of them are collaborations with other designers. In terms of themes, I’ve got glacial periods, Ojibway myths, wolf packs, urbatecture, escape artists, dystopian, superheroes, French-Canadian myths, paleontology, and many others.
Wow! 24 games in the hopper. If his first two big releases are any indication, we’re going to be seeing a lot of Yves Tourigny in years to come. I want to thank Yves for being such a good sport and taking the time to answer my questions. We look forward to playing more of his games and wish him great success.